Tuesday, August 28, 2007

things that make you go, "huh?"

Last night, I was riding the Orange Line home from the gym and there wasn’t an available seat, so I stood. At Foggy Bottom, a blind woman with one of those cute helper doggies boarded the train. The men who were in the seats typically reserved for people with disabilities (or the elderly) didn’t move. The blind woman held on to the pole with one hand and held on to her dog with the other hand. I glared at one particular person who was seated in the disability seats—a young, able bodied man in a suit who should definitely know better. Had I been seated I would’ve certainly have given up my seat. What’s with these people?

At Rosslyn, an older woman with two young children boarded the train. One of the children was in a stroller. She was Muslim and dressed in full traditional garb. She was probably hot from walking around in so many layers. Regardless, she was a mother who would’ve definitely appreciated a seat. Again, none of the men gave up their seats. Again, I glared at the able bodied man in the suit. Seriously though, what ever happened to our manners, common decency, and general courtesy? I walked off of that train figuratively scratching my head. I simply couldn’t understand why no one gave up their seats for those two women who clearly could’ve used them.

This morning, I got on the (new and improved) ART bus on my way to the Metro. Eventually, as the bus started to unload at this one popular spot, I was able to get a seat. It just so happened to be one of the seats reserved for those with disabilities and the elderly.

At a particular stop, a blind woman stepped on the bus. The bus driver guided her in getting to the little payment acceptor machine. There were no available seats on the train so I knew what I had to do. As I was gathering my things (gym bag, purse, water bottle), a woman yelled angrily from the back of the bus, “Can’t you people see she’s blind?? Someone needs to give up their seat!” Ummm…yeah, lady. That’s what I was doing. I was carrying a lot of stuff with me. I didn’t see any able bodied men getting up. Damn.

I got up and caught the blind woman by the arm. I told her, “There’s a seat available for you. Would you like me to take you there?” She replied, “Oh thank you. Don’t worry about what that lady said. I’m fine.” She walked over to the general vicinity of the lady who yelled and said to her, “I’m just fine standing right here. Thank you for your concern.”

My seat stood empty still as I continued to stand. Some how, it just didn’t seem right to sit. After all, I’m a young-ish person who can easily stand. I knew that someone on that bus needed that seat more than I did (in this case, the blind woman) and I would’ve felt guilty had I sat down again.

The blind woman ended up getting off at the same bus stop as I did. I looked behind me to see her getting off the bus and refusing the help of everyone who offered. Maybe she wanted to show her independence (or practice it). Maybe she wanted to prove to herself that she didn’t need anyone’s help. Regardless (to quote Bobby Brown for the first and only time on this blog), it’s her prerogative.

Still, I’m not quite sure why people don’t readily give up their seats on the Metro to others who are clearly in need of sitting. Why is it that I feel a sense of obligation to do so and others don't?

It's just a damn seat.


honeykbee said...

Manners, common decency, and general courtesy went out the window when all those darn broads started burning their bras and demanding equal rights.

*tongue in cheek*

sunchaser said...

Good for you for giving up your seat, but I have to say, it just kind of depresses me to read stuff like this.

Why can't there be a happy medium? Either you have people who clearly demonstrate by their actions or lack thereof that they don't care at all (ie: the men on the metro and all of the other people on the bus), or people at the other extreme (the screaming woman on the bus).

Nary the tween shall meet?

lizzie said...

honeykbee--but it's not fair to make the blind suffer for the rise of feminism. :)

sunchaser--it depresses me too. i read on some other blog yesterday that the blogger's formerly preggers friend was never offered a seat on the Metro during her pregnancy. that's pretty ridiculous if you ask me.

i think the screaming woman meant well. but her tone was quite insensitive.

Alexis said...

I'm not sure which is worse; young able-bodied men sitting, or kids sitting and not giving up their seat for an elderly/blind/pregnant person who clearly needs the seat more then they do. I tend to sit close to the front of the bus, but always jump up if someone gets on who needs the seat more then I do, and I expect that when I have children someday, I will teach them to do the same. It bothers me that parents don't teach their children manners and it bothers me that young-ish men can't be bothered either!


DCWeddingPhotog said...

I hate when I see this happen. Especially at the end of the day- when there's a woman 7 months pregnant, clearly exhausted- and then there's a guy, hiding behind his newspaper, too much of a baby to give up his seat.

And I'm also a baby, because I should be able to speak up and tell that dude to get his ass up outta that chair!

lizzie said...

alexis--i think both are equally bad. i will definitely teach my future children to be courteous and give up their seats to those who really need them. it definitely bothered me to see all of those able-bodied people comfortably sitting while a blind person and a mother with children were being jerked around on the train. it's ridiculous, really, that they had to stand.

mk--yup, yup, yup. i see that at least once a week. but you have a point. i should be active, rather than passive. maybe next time, i will volunteer someone's seat for that one person who really needs it.

maybe that's what we all need to do.

Jane said...

I've run a series of "bad behavior on the Metro" posts, and I continue to be amazed by how many men block seats, don't give up handicapped seats to the handicapped, and generally ignore basic decency. I understand a lot of them claim feminism ruined manners for them, but really, a mother with young children needs the seat.

reuben said...

thanks for this post... i too am saddened by the degree of selfishness this society so casually displays, and not just on the trains...

Golden Silence said...

I get aggravated with these types. They don't care because they don't consider anyone who's outside of their White, white-collared, able-bodied circle.

I have yelled a few times at these idiots, like the guy who sat in an aisle seat during RUSH HOUR when the train was crowded and an older woman near him wanted that seat. Or the nerdy guy in a suit who put his newspaper down in the seat next to him (also during rush hour).

If you don't want to be around people who aren't like you, then don't take the Metro. And stop shoving your White male privilege in everyone else's face.

lizzie said...

jane--i understand the feminism angle as honey and i joked about it earlier, but this is really just a common courtesy issue. yes, a disabled person needs a seat. a woman with children would welcome a seat in a heart beat (even if she only puts her children in the seat so they stay still). people just need to start thinking about the needs of others.

reuben--thank you for the compliment. you're right. selfishness is not just on the metro or on the bus. it's everywhere. maybe there's something about this city.

golden silence--i understand what you're saying. but i'm not sure this is a race issue. it's not even a class issue either. it's like this indiscriminate plague of selfishness is infecting this city. i've seen people of all races either take up a whole seat or not get up when a pregnant woman gets on the train. also, i've seen people of all races give up seats too. i'm not sure that it's just one segment of the population. but our experiences may be different.

Anonymous said...

This is "MMA Fan" here, Lizzie..Having password problems, so please forgive the anon post.

For a city and area that prides itself as having one of, if not the highest concentration of persons with advanced academic degrees, it boggles me that many lack the common courtesy, decency and civility to function in a public space and among stangers.

It also troubles me how elderly and those who are not able-bodied are treated in public and just almost run over on the platforms.

I remember being in Japan. It is a very harmonius and civilized place, despite the crowds. Something like this would almost, never happen there.

This lack of respect for others (from both sexes and different groups) is not only apparent on the Metro, but in many public venues around here. I'm not perfect and sometimes, I catch the "rudeness" bug, mainly as a way of responding to like treatment.

However, I make a dilligent effort to treat people as I would like to be treated, and I remind myself that one good person doing a good deed cancels out 10 jerks.

Rudeness seems to be like a contagious disease here, randomly passed from one person to the next. However, we also have the power to stop it.

gpliving said...

The default action on the metro/bus is to wait until you are asked to give up your seat. We've all had the "handicapped people just want to be treated like normal people" lecture pumped through our brains so many times, that we'll just wait to be told otherwise.

Anonymous said...

I agree with everyone about giving up a seat to someone who needs it more, but I have to play devil's advocate:

Maybe the young man sitting had a medical condition that isn't apparent and needed the seat. I'd like to think that and not jump to conclusions. That being said, what about the handful of other people sitting in the same vicinity?

Anonymous said...

If I don't have a seat to give up, I routinely ask (politely) people to vacate the special access seats when a pregnant woman or person with any disability gets on the metro. Sure, it's ridiculous that they need to be confronted about their bad behavior, but I don't think remaining silent and stewing about it is defensible either. It gives a pleasant sense of moral indignation and superiority, but doesn't bring about any change.

For whatever it's worth, I used to stew just like you're describing. What finally put me over the edge and actually speak up was watching and hearing about the trials my wife went through on the metro while she was pregnant.
I've found that it helps to give folks the benefit of the doubt and help them save face. "Excuse me, but you might not have noticed that you're in a special access seat. Would you mind giving up your seat to help out?"

lizzie said...

MMA fan--i don't really like anonymous comments so thank you for revealing yourself. i think that most people in dc are just stuck in their own little bubble without ever being aware that there are others around them. you're right. i see this kind of treatment everywhere i go in the city. i RARELY get thanked for opening a door for someone. i RARELY get thanked for letting someone go ahead of me in line or where ever. and when i went to blacksburg, va this weekend, i realized that everyone there is so polite and courteous. that's definitely missing in dc.

gpliving--is that so? i had never heard of that. i would still rather err on the side of caution and still offer up my seat to anyone who needs it.

anon--you're right. i focussed on the young man because he was younger than the other folks who were sitting down but anyone could have given up their seat. however, this post isn't about just that young man. it's about everyone in dc who would rather be inconsiderate than think of those people around us.

anon2--you're right. please read my response to MK above. that's exactly what i said. i will start offering other people's seats. it should be interesting to see who gives them up then.

i'm sorry about your wife. it truly saddens me when i see pregnant women standing on the train. being a woman myself, that's probably when i get the most angry.

honeykbee said...

Congrats on your DCBlogs mention!

lizzie said...

aren't you sweet (and appropriately named)! thanks!

Beakerz said...

She's as sweet as honey but just don't forget about that pesky stinger ;)

MB said...

When I was pregnant not one person ever offered their seat on bus or metro. However, when I was younger, thinner and dateable, guys did it all the time. Assholes.